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Why Do Cats Knead And What Does It Mean?

Cats are perplexing creatures, and, as such, they do many things we don’t always understand. If you have a feline in your life, you’ve probably noticed that, from time to time, your cat kneads their favorite blanket, sleeping pillow, or even your lap. This rhythmical movement of the paws got its name for its uncanny resemblance to dough kneading techniques, which is why it’s often called “making biscuits”. Even though this behavior is much more common with kittens, adult cats knead as well.

This adorable feline habit is both comical and cute at the same time, but do you know what does it really means when cats knead? If you’re unsure what is the message your kitty is trying to send you, read on.

Why do cats knead things with their paws?

Although not every cat kneads, it’s a common feline behavior in both babies and adults. Starting as an instinctual behavior in the early kittenhood, the primary function of kneading is to stimulate lactation. By using their adorable tiny paws to press on their mom’s mammary glands during nursing, kittens ensure both their survival and a tasty meal. You see, the repetitive movement is not only serving as a way to promote milk flow, it also encourages maternal instinct and establishes a bond between a cat and their kittens. This way, the squishy, “making biscuits” movement is linked to a state of enjoyment and the feeling of safety, beginning from the earliest day of their lives.

So, if this is a form a behavior that’s linked with kittens, why do adult cats knead? Does the softness of the blanket remind them of their mother, or are they trying to tell you they’re hungry?

Well, it’s neither.

Even though no one can say for sure, the prevailing theory among experts is that cats knead blankets and other soft things either to mark their territory or as a way of adjusting the blanket before sleeping on it. The first theory is based on the fact that felines have scent glands in their paws, therefore rubbing them on objects leaves their mark and, in a way, helps them claim it as theirs.

On the other hand, the notion that our furry friends are making their favorite sleeping spot more comfortable stems from the fact that the distant ancestors of felines did something quite similar to grass. Before they snuggled up on a specific spot, they would flatten the grass blades with their paws, and, literally, make their own beds.

SEE ALSO: Weimaraner dog gets massage from a Bengal cat

Another interesting theory connects kneading with contentment and calmness. This idea proposes that felines start “massaging” on occasions when they are feeling completely relaxed and safe. In those moments, the instincts kick in, and they’re repeating the behavior connected to the feeling of comfort experienced during nursing.

But, when cats knead on your stomach or lap, does it mean the same thing?

What it means when a cat kneads on you?

Cat kneading on me GifMore often than not, felines knead their humans rather than their favorite blanket. Some people feel privileged when their little ball of fur starts purring and kneading in their lap, associating the cat’s behavior with a parent-child relationship. Although it might not necessarily mean that your kitty has mistaken you for its mom, it definitely means that she or he feel safe and happy around you.

There are many reasons why cats knead their owners, and they’re mostly connected both to your cat’s particular personality and the instincts all felines share. The most common cause for why your cat loves purring and squishing you with her paws is to show her love. It’s a pattern that indicates a deep bond between you. Sometimes, if your kitty is jealous of your spouse or other pets you have, they might start kneading you as a way to express their possessiveness and affection at the same time.

In some cases, cats can knead you and drool at the same time. Don’t be alarmed! This just means that your furball is feeling so blissful that they’re completely transported to their kittenhood. Another, similar behavior, is when a feline “makes biscuits” and suckles on your clothes simultaneously. Both of these combinations indicate that your cat is feeling like a kitten again- safe, comforted and loved.

Either way, the common denominator of all these theories remains the same. The reason your cat kneads on you is because she loves you and feels comfortable in your presence.

Despite the fact that all cat owners love when their pets are in a cuddly, loving mood, kneading isn’t always pleasant. The back-and-forth movement of the paws can become bothersome if your feline tends to do it with their claws out. If you’re hesitant to learn your cat that this behavior is undesirable (after all, who can resist their kitty’s love?) you can solve this by keeping their nails neatly trimmed or covering their claws with nail guard. In case that doesn’t help, fold a blanket and place it on your lap when you notice your cat is feeling especially cuddly. It will prevent their nails from ruining your favorite pair of jeans or leaving scratch marks on your thighs.

What about aggressive kneading habits?

In rare cases, the usually lovable quirk can become an obsessive practice. In instances when “making biscuits” is making you crazy, it might mean it’s not only your cat’s way of showing affection but rather a symptom of something else. Male cats with aggressive kneading behavior can become tireless in their constant squeezing and rubbing with their paws. This means they are set on marking their territory, or that the behavior is a part of a mating ritual, especially if they are not neutered. Aggressive kneading followed by biting (or drooling) can signal that your feline is looking for a mate.

If the kneading becomes a nuisance, instead of punishing your cat for something that comes naturally to them, try distracting them with a toy. The same can be applied to the females. If your cat engages in fervent, trance-like kneading, it might be a sign of her going into heat. Some cats express their willingness to mate by meowing loudly, kneading more than usual and, sometimes, marking with urine. If your feline isn’t spayed and starts kneading uncontrollably, this might be the reason. In any case, it will pass when she comes out of heat or after spaying.

Ultimately, whichever the reason for your cat’s display of affection, the one thing is certain. Kneading is a natural, innate thing for felines, and as such, it shouldn’t give you a reason to worry. All you have to do is relax and enjoy those loving moments with your four-legged family member.

Got anything to add to this article? Tell us in the comment section below or start a discussion with other members in our cat behaviour forum.

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